Processing linguistic complexity and grammaticality in the left frontal cortex

Cereb Cortex. 2006 Dec;16(12):1709-17. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhj106. Epub 2006 Jan 4.


We used event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging to directly compare the hemodynamic responses associated with varying degrees of linguistic complexity with those engendered by the processing of ungrammatical utterances. We demonstrate a dissociation within the left inferior frontal cortex between the deep frontal operculum, which responds to syntactic violations, and a core region of Broca's area, that is, the inferior portion of the left pars opercularis in Brodmann area 44, the activation of which is modulated as a function of the complexity of well-formed sentences. The data demonstrate that different brain regions in the prefrontal cortex support distinct mechanisms in the mapping from a linguistic form onto meaning, thereby separating ungrammaticality from linguistic complexity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Behavior / physiology
  • Brain Mapping
  • Frontal Lobe* / anatomy & histology
  • Frontal Lobe* / physiology
  • Humans
  • Language*
  • Linguistics*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Semantics
  • Speech Perception / physiology*